Across the globe, there are hundreds of young men and women who have taken up acoustic guitars, inspired by the grand folk and country tradition, and set about put their sleeve-worn hearts into musical form. But the result is often feather light and wispy and all too easily forgotten amid the din of the modern age.
Not so with the music of Drew Grow and the Pastors Wives.
The music on the band’s self-titled LP (released on their own Amigo/Amiga label) shares the influence of many current indie artists, but carries with much more meat and gristle to chew on. It feels like it was molded after a long life of ups and downs, all set a soundtrack of the curlicued songwriting of Bob Dylan, the drowsy despair of Bill Callahan/Smog, and a thick stack of dusty Motown and Stax 45s.
There’s a spiritual side to Grow’s work here as well, pulled from what sounds like a life bruised by growing up in a Christian household. Songs like “Hook” and “Bootstraps” carry with them the imagery of the religious life, but aren’t weighed down by it. When Grow sings, “I’m born again!”, the conviction he imbues that sentiment with is undeniable.
Grow is aided here by a crack backing band that features Jeremiah Hayden on drums, Kris Doty on bass and vocals, and Seth Schaper playing keyboards. Together, they bolster Grow’s emotional anthems with a slow burning style reminiscent of Basement Tapes-era The Band or Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s current chosen backing band, The Cairo Gang.
It’s a surprisingly cohesive collection considering their scattered beginnings. Many of the songs were originally released on a series of singles over the course of 2009 and 2010 before being gathered together with some extra material for this vinyl/download-only LP. On their own, they were powerful enough, but in one lump sum like this, it is positively breathtaking.
Don’t just take our word for it. Casey Jarman, music editor of Willamette Week, said of Grow’s song “Company”: “This is the kind of thing you want to pop on the stereo at your favorite dive, right after the whiskey hits you and you’re feeling bold enough to actually talk to that girl.” And the Huffington Post had this to say of Grow’s music: “Their music melds together a scuzzy, squally blend of rebellious gospel/folk that at times possesses the radiant buoyancy of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, and in quieter moments the seeping warmth of M Ward or intelligent, lovely meanderings of Elvis Perkins. It’s wild and sharp and smart.”
Grow is itching to bring these songs and new material that he is written on the road this year, after spending much of the early part of 2011 sidelined with injuries he sustained in a car accident. Look for him this fall when he and the Pastors Wives take to the stage.